North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

UND students shine at national intellectual property moot court competition

The UND School of Law Intellectual Property Moot Court team impressed at the National Round of the Giles S. Rich Memorial Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.

After an exceptional showing at the Regional Competition in Houston, Texas the team consisting of 2L students Sarah Belliston, Casey Drege, and Danielle Middleton made another strong showing during the National Round of the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s competition. The team is coached by Professor Nikola Datzov.

The National Round competition consisted of 10 invitation-only teams, representing the winners and runners-up from each of the five regional competitions. In addition to UND, the teams represented some of the best and brightest IP students across the country from the following schools: University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Columbia Law School, University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Duke University School of Law, George Washington University Law School, Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and Temple University Beasley School of Law.

At the National Round, the UND students won their second round by a significant margin and lost their first-round matchup in heartbreaking fashion by one point. As a result, they missed qualifying for the semi-finals by a mere two points.  Nevertheless, “the students performed exceptionally well and distinguished themselves among a very competitive field. They were poised, confident, persuasive, and responsive,” remarked Professor Datzov. “I’m so proud of the work they’ve put in over the past few months and the remarkable manner in which they represented UND on the national stage. Their future clients are in great hands.”

During the feedback session following the first round, one of the judges (a current Patent Trial and Appeal Board judge) said, “I was kind of blown away. You were really good.” A judge in the second round remarked, “A stellar effort—you really deserve to be proud of what you’ve done.”

As part of the competition, the students were required to submit two appellate briefs (one for each side) and present 30 minutes of oral argument in each round. At the Southern Region competition, both of the participating UND teams advanced to the semi-finals, with Belliston, Drege, and Middleton advancing to the final round and eventually earning a second-place victory. They also won the award for Best Appellant’s Brief and Best Overall Brief Score. The team that won against UND in a very close final round, the University of Texas, went on to win second place at the National Competition, losing to the team from George Washington.

Beyond the tremendous experience of making five oral arguments in two federal courthouses across the country in front of real judges and experts in IP, the students took away many positive experiences. Professor Datzov explained, “moot court presents far more than just a chance to hone one’s appellate advocacy skills. It provides meaningful opportunities to become a better communicator and advance one’s ability to explain complicated legal principles and analysis in a clear, persuasive, and logical manner. Those are skills that every lawyer relies on—not just those who litigate.” 

Reflecting on her moot court experience, Belliston commented, “externals is the only opportunity UND students have to practice with a coach and really refine appellate oral advocacy skills. I loved looking back and seeing the progress I personally made from the first moot to the last. Teachers and coaches can say techniques and advice, but I didn’t really understand until I reached the point where I could do it myself.”  Drege shared that he experienced similar professional growth, “moot court presents an opportunity unlike anything else in law school. Although the competition, travel, and opportunity to meet professionals across the country is extremely rewarding, the value of moot court really comes from the process. It helps students solidify their understanding of both substantive and procedural law in a practical way. Regardless of the area of law or intended career path, the skills attained during moot court will undoubtably give students an advantage among their peers.”